How Do You Live
Written by: Genzaburo Yoshino
Penguin Random House
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
In How Do You Live, author Genzaburo Yoshino captures the human spirit and it is both beautiful and confronting. How Do You Live is the poignant story of a 15-year-old boy growing up in 1930s Japan, a boy whose father’s last wish was for him to be a great example of a human being.
Copper is a boy intrigued by the world around him and begins to wonder increasingly about all the human intricacies and life’s unknowns that surround him, all while navigating the friendships and adventures of youth. How Do You Live offers an insight into Copper’s world and the heart-warming relationship he has with his uncle, who stives to mentor him after his father dies.
His uncle writes to Copper in a notebook with words that gently speak to what he knows and feels about life. He wants to explain the complexities of the human condition and what it means to truly live. He speaks as if to Copper’s soul, to encourage him to see all possibilities.
His words are pragmatic and philosophical and implore Copper to view humanity and all it entails with a great sense of pride and connection. Copper begins to consider everyone and everything, from the people who make his clothes, to the farmer who provides his milk. Copper in his wonder learns to see the bigger picture.
His uncle sees the promise in Copper, his greatness and his failings. “It’s hard to admit our mistakes. But in the pain of our mistakes there is also human greatness,” he writes.
Copper takes his uncle’s guidance to heart. When he fails his friends Kitami and Uragawa, he realises he can rise above his mistakes: “still I can become a good person. I can become a good person and create one good person for the world.”
In How Do You Live, the human spirit prevails. There’s a great lesson here: how we treat people will ultimately prove our character.